I am a huge fan of the popular TV show Mythbusters. If you’ve never seen it, it’s a group of people who test pop culture myths to see if they could have actually happened. For example, they tested the myth that the blades on a helicopter are so finely balanced that something as small as a postage stamp on a rotor blade could be catastrophic for the helicopter. In any event, I thought it might worth while to talk about some “myths” that have been (with good intentions) spread throughout Christianity.
Today, I would like to tackle the myth of the third commandment, more commonly known as “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses His name.” (Exodus 20:7) Most people hold to the belief that this means, “Don’t say God’s name needlessly,” or, “Don’t say ‘Oh my God’ or ‘Jesus’ unless you are praying.” The argument that typically follows this is, “How would you feel if people went around saying, “Oh my Brad!”
First of all, I do agree that God’s name is holy and should be treated with the respect that He deserves. There are a select group of people who because of a joke at kids camp several years ago say “Oh my Brad” as an expression of surprise, and I don’t mind. But I also do not hold my name to be holy. God’s name is holy and should be treated with respect, but if that is the total extent of the third commandment, I think God set the bar pretty low. As a kids pastor, I take it to the next step and teach that this commandment warns us to be careful with our words, in a regards: use proper words, don’t use spread lies about people etc. But still it goes deeper.
I believe that this commandment speaks more to the heart of how we represent God. What I mean by that is sometimes people misuse God’s name to justify their sin. For example: in case you missed it, our country has been in hard times for a couple of years now. Unemployment is up, saving and retirement is down, money is tight and morals are loose. The number of people getting married is down and the number of couples living together is up, and there is no exception in this for the church. Yes, even church going, God-loving couples are living together before getting married. When pressed on this, many people respond with some form of this statement: “We don’t have enough money to get married, and we prayed about it, and God is okay with us living together. He understands. We’ve been together long enough too, that God is okay with us having sex (lets not be so naive as to believe that people living together are not sleeping together).”
God’s word is so clear on this issue, that if you honestly read it, you would find that God does not tolerate sex outside of marriage. So to say that God told you it is okay is taking His name in vain. As a pastor, I hear it all. I’ve heard this one more times than I can count, not to mention, “God is okay with my stealing because I am poor” and “I can treat my kids any way I want, because they are my kids. I brought them into the world, and God does not care how I parent them.”
The measuring stick of God’s audible word is always written scripture. So, if God speaks to you, it should line up with his word. If it does not line up with His word, it was not Him speaking. Using God to justify sin, is taking His name in vain. Sometimes, it happens in leadership as well. Someone will say that I gave them permission to do something I did not. We joke in the church office that they took my name in vain. But when we do the same to God, it is not very funny.
<Stepping down off my soap box.> Thanks for reading!